With a little luck and the help of the federal government, members of Mountain Electric Cooperative may be able to access high-speed internet service delivered via electrical lines. In a recent survey, over 20 percent of those members polled within the service area of Mountain Electric Cooperative expressed an interest in this new mode of delivering internet service to rural areas.
According to Charles Dunn of Mountain Electric Cooperative, anyone who has electrical power would be able to receive broadband internet access should this system be installed. The second round of stimulus money under The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 would provide the funding for grants that would expand broadband services to rural areas across the United States that currently do not have access to this technology. The announcement of monies awarded for this endeavor should be made by September 30, 2010. Any system receiving funding from grant money as part of the federal stimulus plan would need to be completed within a two-year time period.
In 2004, the Federal Communications Commission gave the go-ahead for electric utility companies to provide their customers with high-speed internet service through their electrical lines. This method of internet service is known as Broadband over Power Lines (BPL). BPL can bring internet service to those areas of rural communities who do not have full access to the internet through other methods. International Broadband Electric Communications (IPEC), based in Huntsville, Alabama, has broadened their technology to deliver internet broadband service to rural customers via electric power lines. IBEC has partnered with IBM Global Financing to bring high-speed internet to rural areas across the United States, targeting the South, Midwest and the East. This type of internet service would be similar to digital service line (DSL) or cable modems.
The monthly charge for BPL could be bundled with the customers monthly electrical bill.
According to Rick DiLella, sales director for IBEC, the award of the grant would allow for funding for the installment of necessary equipment. Using existing infrastructure, equipment would be attached to utility poles approximately every one-half mile, allowing the internet signal to reach its customers. There would be no cost to Mountain Electric Cooperative as the monies would be received from the federal government grant. Customers would need to plug a BPL modem into any outlet that had been fitted with a device that would transmit information through existing electrical lines. This device is about the size of a plug-in room freshener. Customers will receive their internet signal through their computer or wireless router.
With this internet service, there are three packages for home use that are available. IBEC does not require a contract for their services. Currently, the first package offers up to 256 kilobytes (KB) per second at a cost of $29.95 per month. The second package offers up to one megabyte (Mb) per second. The cost of the second package is $49.95 monthly. Finally, the third packages offers up to three Mb per second at $89.95 a month. There is no limit to the bandwidth amount a customer can download or upload. Should the customer go over the accessible use policy limits, their account may be monitored to determine whether they are operating under a personal account when it should be deemed a business account. According to DiLella, accommodations can be made if the customer is a part-time resident. They have the choice of suspending their account for $10, allowing them access only to their email. Should the customer be gone more than seven months, they can stop their service and reinstate when they are ready with a charge of $75. At this time, the customers have the choice of purchasing their BPL modem for $99 or paying a monthly rental fee.
IPEC specializes in bringing BPL internet service to rural America. Currently, they are working with nine other electric cooperatives in Indiana, Alabama, Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia and Pennsylvania. We have more experience in the rural states than anyone in the world. said DiLella. More information will be forthcoming based upon the federal governments decision on the grant application.